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The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Movingby Leigh Gallagher
Synopses & Reviews
The government in the past created one American Dream at the expense of almost all others: the dream of a house, a lawn, a picket fence, two children, and a car. But there is no single American Dream anymore.”
For nearly 70 years, the suburbs were as American as apple pie. As the middle class ballooned and single-family homes and cars became more affordable, we flocked to pre-fabricated communities in the suburbs, a place where open air and solitude offered a retreat from our dense, polluted cities. Before long, success became synonymous with a private home in a bedroom community complete with a yard, a two-car garage and a commute to the office, and subdivisions quickly blanketed our landscape.
But in recent years things have started to change. An epic housing crisis revealed existing problems with this unique pattern of development, while the steady pull of long-simmering economic, societal and demographic forces has culminated in a Perfect Storm that has led to a profound shift in the way we desire to live.
In The End of the Suburbs journalist Leigh Gallagher traces the rise and fall of American suburbia from the stately railroad suburbs that sprung up outside American cities in the 19th and early 20th centuries to current-day sprawling exurbs where residents spend as much as four hours each day commuting. Along the way she shows why suburbia was unsustainable from the start and explores the hundreds of new, alternative communities that are springing up around the country and promise to reshape our way of life for the better.
Not all suburbs are going to vanish, of course, but Gallagher's research and reporting show the trends are undeniable. Consider some of the forces at work:
Along the way, she explains why understanding the shifts taking place is imperative to any discussion about the future of our housing landscape and of our society itself — and why that future will bring us stronger, healthier, happier and more diverse communities for everyone.
"The suburbs are in many ways a uniquely American phenomenon — no other nation has them in such abundance. But their future is in doubt. Gallagher, assistant managing editor at Fortune, marshals ample evidence that the suburbs are in decline, as the financial crisis, long-term demographic trends, and increased environmental awareness conspire to drive Americans away from residential subdivisions. 'Simply speaking, more and more Americans don't want to live there anymore,' she writes. Through conversations with home builders, designers, and consumers, and a review of relevant data concerning suburban real estate, Gallagher heralds a future of 'smaller-scale' communities and urban spaces characterized by walk-ability, socioeconomic diversity, and mixed-use development. The promise of more human-centered design will appeal to many readers. Gallagher's ideal community seems to be a combination of Brooklyn's Park Slope and Media, Penn., her own childhood suburb. Many of Gallagher's ideas are more concerned with rejecting past excesses than with offering truly new perspectives. The same statistics and experts are quoted throughout this short tome, giving one the feeling of driving past a series of identical cul-de-sacs." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A Fortune journalist examines why the suburbs are transforming and losing their appeal — and why that's not a bad thing.
Over the past few years, the American suburbs have undergone a dramatic shift, with millions of once-coveted homes now stamped with foreclosure signs and once-pristine neighborhoods plagued by crime and poverty. According to Leigh Gallagher, this phenomenon isn't merely about the housing bust; it reflects fundamental changes in our society. For example:
Blending economic data, analysis, and on-the-ground reporting, Gallagher paints a surprising and fascinating portrait of how the American Dream isn't over; it's simply changing.
According to Fortunes Leigh Gallagher, powerful social, economic, and demographic forces are converging to render the suburbs unnecessary, and even undesirable, for an everincreasing number of Americans.
Gallagher introduces us to a cast of innovators who are redefining the American dream away from the traditional bucolic subdivision. She reveals why the decline of the suburbs isnt a tragedy, but will ultimately lead to stronger, happier, and healthier communities for all of us.
About the Author
Leigh Gallagher is an assistant managing editor at Fortune, where she edits feature stories and oversees key Fortune franchises, including 40 Under 40 and Best Companies to Work For. She is also a frequent public speaker and commentator on national radio and television. Earlier in her career she was a senior editor at SmartMoney and a writer at Forbes.
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